Fletcher: Environmentalism for dummies

David Suzuki has resigned as a director of his namesake foundation so it won’t be the target of federal government “attacks.”

David Suzuki has resigned as a director of his namesake foundation so it won’t be the target of federal government “attacks.”

This news is conveyed to me in a Globe and Mail report that is typically tilted in deference to “Canada’s most famous environmentalist.”

The usual assumptions are woven in: Suzuki is a saint. His every utterance is treated as scientific fact, even when it’s a left-wing political rant. The Conservative government is a front for Big Oil that has “attacked” environmental groups by reminding them that political activities are not eligible for charitable tax exemptions.

In recent years, the David Suzuki Foundation’s campaign focus has been noticeably in step with the large U.S. foundations that fund most of B.C.’s enviro-scare industry—first salmon farming and now the Alberta “tar sands” in all its exaggerated horror.

Suzuki’s personal activities aren’t easily distinguished from those of his foundation, as was illustrated with his recent CBC documentary that demonized the “tar sands.”

Diseased fish were displayed, but natural contamination of the Athabasca River was glossed over. Aboriginal objections were highlighted, while local support and economic benefits were overlooked.

This isn’t science or charity. It’s tabloid journalism. Sensationalize, ignore facts that weaken the drama, play to people’s emotions. And he expects to be subsidized by the CBC and charitable tax exemptions as well?

This news comes as I finish reading Patrick Moore’s book, <I>Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout</I>. I was one of many young fans who cheered as Moore, Bob Hunter and the other 1970s Greenpeace pioneers set out from Vancouver to disrupt Soviet nuclear testing, and then turned to the regime’s slaughter of whales.

In 1986, Moore split with Greenpeace and worked to set up a family chinook salmon farm. He said Greenpeace opposed aquaculture because it destroys tropical mangrove swamps. Tropical prawn farms have no rational connection with B.C., but a global organization needs simple ideas that sell.

This approach was seen in an earlier 1980s campaign against chlorine in pulp mills. Greenpeace protests against dioxins and the herbicide 2,4,5-T were eventually dumbed down to opposing the use of chlorine in all industries, including production of PVC plastic.

Pulp mills developed a way to eliminate trace dioxins from their production, but that didn’t matter once Greenpeace had a global campaign going. They still used chlorine, so they’re bad.

Speaking of chlorine, PCBs are polychlorinated biphenyls, a persistent background toxin. Tests found levels three to five times higher in some wild salmon compared to farmed. But the wild salmon results were ignored in a 2004 study, used by Suzuki to depict farmed salmon as poisonous. His foundation’s salmon farm campaign quietly disappeared down the memory hole after its PCB claims were debunked.

Moore highlighted another bit of greenwashing in a visit to Victoria last year. The vaunted LEED certification for green building standards gives you points if your concrete is locally sourced, but no points for using wood instead. That’s because the long campaign by major environmental groups has devolved to “logging is bad.”

Here’s the latest example. Greenpeace, ForestEthics and the Sierra Club were bankrolled by U.S. foundations to negotiate with the B.C. government, aboriginal people and forest companies for the 2006 Great Bear Rainforest agreement on the B.C. coast. Economic opportunity was delicately balanced against preservation and First Nations gained new control of forests.

Now the big enviros have begun campaigning against their own deal. As much as 50 per cent could still be logged, they say. It seems this particular green peace is bad for their business.